Building Fujimiís "Pete"
by Peter Gunti

 
 

In 1997 Fujimi launched three kits of Mitsubishiís famous floatplane. The only other kit readily available in the better shops was the one from Aviation USK. Comparing the two products one immediately notes a striking difference in fuselage shape. USKís is considerably more voluminous and curved to an oval cross section. If the plans of Maru Mechanic are correct then I do prefer Fujimiís slender shape. The model I decided to make was the F1M2-K. This version differs in being of later production and having different cockpit transparencies.

 

 
 
 

Both Fujimi kits do have a high standard of accuracy and detailing. The fit of all parts is good and only minimal filling was required. Seldom before could I install the upper wing of a biplane with such ease. All the struts are the correct length too.

If a higher standard of detailing is required Eduard produces a nice set of photo etched parts. For once, all my prejudice against this company and its products proved unfounded as all the details fit snugly into the supposed spaces. The set includes all the detail one could wish for (in this scale) and has to be highly recommended.

Two features of the Fujimi kit deserve special praise. First is the fact that an alternate set of floats are provided. The lower sections of these alternate floats are cut flat to represent a "waterline" model (the decision not to do use this option came pretty hard). Second, the cowling flaps of the engine are open. Despite the fact that most radial-engined aircraft had these open on the ground, the vast majority of kit producers (including USK) follow the path of the easiest mold, disregard the standard configuration and indicate those flaps by engraving a few panel lines where a substantial airflow should be located.

There is no such thing as a perfect kit however, and the "Pete" is no exception. One thing I did not like at all was the engine. The front row of cylinders is located too far back in the cowling and the housing of the reduction gear is wrong in shape. In the kit it is nearly cylindrical while in reality it should be close to a hemisphere. I therefor substituted the whole engine with a Mitsubishi Ha-26-I from a old LS "Dinah" that has a striking resemblance with the Nakajima Hikari 1 it is replacing. With hindsight, this effort is questionable as the large spinner covers most of this added detail.

I do love the open radiator flaps but these come as the outer part of a complete fuselage bulkhead. If looked at from a rear angle, the bulkhead blocks all view. I therefore cut two banana-shaped openings in that bulkhead, so that at least a part of the engine is visible from behind.
The oddest feature of an otherwise outstanding model is the way the two lower wing halves are divided. The wings of the "Pete" are of metal construction in their forward half only (upper as well as lower surface). The rear half of the wing is canvas-covered like in most other biplanes of the era. Fujimi has gone to great lengths detailing the surface of the wing but to little avail as precisely midway of the canvas runs the joint between the upper and the lower wing half. The fit of these two parts is good but not perfect. So if you want to fill and sand the lower wing you will go to great pains not to ruin all the detail so abundantly provided by the kit. In my case I used a curved carving knife to scratch away the putty
instead of sandpaper and still ruined a fair portion of it.

All parts of the kit are molded in the crisp way we have come to expect of these Japanese kits. The only exceptions are the transparencies. These seem to date back to an earlier era and cannot match the precision of the other plastic in the kit. The pilotís windshield is molded with a hole for the telescopic gunsight. On page 16 of Maru Mechanic I found a picture of the precise aircraft I wanted to model and it had no gunsight at all. These two facts (the lacking quality of the parts and the superfluous nature of the hole) convinced me to vacuform new transparencies.

Making the molds was not easy however, as in 72nd the two pieces have about the size of a tooth. To shape these tiny little parts to perfection requires a steady hand. I always regarded the transparent parts of an aircraft as its eyes. That is where you look first. In this respect producing new parts was worth the effort.

 

 
 
 

Apart from the above mentioned very little additional detailing was necessary. I made a sharp keel to the centreline float and added the catapult attachments to the side of it. The defensive machine gun was replaced with a white-metal one from Fine Molds. In an old British magazine (Scale Models) I found a drawing of the catapult cradle which I duly reconstructed. The catapult in the pictures comes out of an old Hasegawa "Jake" kit. A nice beaching trolley is included in Fujimiís box. If you want your model to rest on it correctly, you better squeeze all the weight you can inside the forward section of the float. Or else the plane will be tail dragging.

I hope I did not discourage you. The finished model is a jewel in my little gallery.

 
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